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Speech by Jean-Claude Juncker at the ASEAN summit

Date of Speech : 06-01-2005

Place : Jakarta

Speaker : Jean-Claude Juncker

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr. President,


I have the honour to take the floor on behalf of the 25 Member States of the European Union and would like to welcome ASEAN’s initiative of organizing this meeting at this most difficult of times.

I am here because Europe is with you. I am here because your victims are ours, because your grief is ours, because your suffering is ours.

The tsunamis have affected a total of 11 countries and left an arc of destruction reaching from Asia to the Horn of Africa. The catastrophe is of a scale that defies comprehension with more than 150.000 people that are feared dead; thousands are missing, many more severely injured and millions have been left homeless. We grieve the dead and mourn especially the ten thousands of children who are lost; an entire generation has fallen victim. The exact toll will probably never be known, not least because so many of the missing were devoured by the sea. In some of the most remote areas entire villages vanished beneath the waves.

Mr. President,


While mourning the dead we should not forget the survivors and the dire situation they are in. Our duty is now to help them face the mounting threats they are confronted with.

In this context I would like to praise the steadfast response provided by you personally as well as your citizens and authorities. On behalf of the Member States of the EU let me also thank you for the generosity and assistance given to European families searching for their loved ones.

You face a tremendous task. Your relief resources are stretched nearly to the limit. Communications, roads and medical facilities have been badly damaged; disease has become a real threat.

Now 11 days after the catastrophe, it is already clear that the implications for the region itself go far beyond the immediate human tragedy.

Europe is shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of life and the vast and massive destruction. So many biographies destroyed, so many hopes vanished, so many dreams stopped: the tragedy is immense.

I would like to underline the impressive response of solidarity of our citizens, non governmental organizations and governments. Their attitude stems not only from concern for the pain suffered in Europe itself. It is above all the expression of a genuine feeling of compassion for the peoples of your countries. 

A three minutes silence has been observed yesterday at noon in all EU member states. National flags were flown at half-mast on government buildings throughout the whole day in commemoration of the victims of the catastrophe and in solidarity with the population of the affected countries.

The European Union and its Member States are uniting their efforts with those of your countries and those of international organizations to do everything possible to provide assistance and relief to the victims and their families. They have already provided an initial, substantial contribution for emergency relief as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction. A total of 1,5 billion euros, close to 2 billion dollars, have been committed by the EU Member States and the Commission until yesterday.

Tomorrow there will be an extraordinary EU ministerial meeting in Brussels which will focus on the next steps to be undertaken by the EU in its efforts to assist the population of your countries. It will be an opportunity to address both immediate relief including supplies and health concerns as well as longer term challenges such as prevention, rehabilitation and reconstruction aspects. The EU commends ASEAN members’ readiness to build up an early warning system in the region, the need for which has been so dramatically illustrated. Be assured that the European Union will do all it can to support the setting-up of an effective system; this issue featuring prominently on the agenda of the EU Ministers discussions on Friday.

They will also hear a report by the Luxembourg Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, Jean-Louis Schiltz and European Commissioner Louis Michel who visited some of the regions worst hit by the tsunami waves and met with the local authorities and international organizations to assess relief efforts in place, as well as the needs that remain. The meeting will also be attended by the Executive Director of UNICEF as representative of the UN system as well as more specifically by senior officials from OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and WHO (World Health Organisation) with whom the EU is cooperating closely.

In this respect, I would like to stress the importance the EU attaches to the action of the UN, its various agencies and the international financial institutions. Confronted to a challenge of such magnitude it is only natural that you would turn to the UN, its legitimacy and expertise, to assume the role of overarching coordinator.

The EU supports the call of the Secretary General of the UN to respond generously to the Consolidated Emergency Appeal just launched. Tomorrow’s meeting of the EU Ministers will also be the occasion to decide on the contribution of the European Union and its Member States to be announced at the donors’ conference to be held on the 11th of January in Geneva.

The EU is preparing a further significant financial aid package, including humanitarian aid as well as reconstruction financing. The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, will elaborate on the additional response of the European Union.

A further decision to be taken over the next weeks will be the question of debt relief - bilateral and multilateral - for the affected countries. The countries will truly need all the financial resources at their disposal to move forward with reconstruction.

I also commend that we look actively into the idea initiated by President Chirac of France to organize, at the European and international level, humanitarian rapid response forces to deal with natural disasters such as the one currently affecting your countries.

Mr. President,


Help with immediate relief is important but rehabilitation and long-term reconstruction efforts are equally important and should begin immediately. Therefore support for the Tsunami-stricken region should not be viewed solely over the short term.

In this respect, the idea put forward by the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder about exploring the possibility of partnership-initiatives between regions and cities in Europe and Asia, as a contribution to people-to-people contacts and medium/long-term help and partnership between Asia and Europe is an initiative which I very much welcome and support.

Our solidarity and aid must be maintained over a period of many years to come because the effects of this tragedy will be felt for a very long time. In this respect it is crucial to decide on a long-term package of assistance giving the prospect of a real financial life-line for the disaster-stricken countries helping the people who have lost everything rebuild their lives.

Rest assured the EU and its Member States will not turn their backs on your people.

This page was last modified on : 06-01-2005

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